Sunday Worship, 5 December 2021

Sunday 5 December 2021

Welcome

God said: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you

to clear the way for you.

Someone is shouting in the desert

‘Get the road ready for the Lord

make a straight path for him to travel.’

Hymn 279 Make way 

Lighting the Advent candle

Hymn 282 Christmas is coming vvs 1 & 2 and choruses

Prayer

Eternal God

when your Son was born

to lighten our darkness

people believed that the earth was flat

that heaven was above the clouds

and disease was caused by demons

In recent centuries we have learned

 to view your world in different ways

and yet we are in bondage to new limitations

we doubt what we cannot prove

we ignore what we cannot see

we find little room for faith

we confess that we suspect angels

and disbelieve good news

we are both infected and affected

by the spirit of our times

behind talk of world peace

we hear the machinery of war

beneath talk of global equality

we see powerful nations striving to be the most powerful

beside talk of your church being renewed

we recognise bondage to the failed patterns of the past

rather than embrace the light

we are fascinated by darkness

past experiences make us cynical

but they are not the key to the future

our suspicions close our minds to hope

we may be able to describe the mountain, but cannot move it

As Christmas approaches

help us to have the naivety and trust

of Mary and Joseph, and all who were then waiting

who encountered angels

believed the Good News

and recognised Christ among them

Hymn SGP 45 How lovely on the mountains

Reading       Philippians 1: 3-11

Reflection

Last week we were thinking about preparing ourselves for Christmas, guided by the lectionary psalm, Psalm 25. This week we’ll use the lectionary Epistle reading to help us reflect on how we can prepare for Christmas and the New Year in the wider sphere of church life.

  • Paul begins by saying that the thanks God every time he thinks of them. That’s nice. Wouldn’t we like that if someone wrote to our church and said that? But do we think like that? Do we give thanks for every single person in our congregation, and across the wider church in Dumbarton, Presbytery and beyond? Or are we a bit selective – happy to give thanks for our friends, those who are part of our circle, who are easy-to-get on with; but there are others where thinking of them does not immediately bring to mind thanks to God? It is doubtful that everyone in the church in Philippi was a perfect little angel. They must have had their awkward characters too. Just like the group who followed Jesus around Galilee and Judaea and became the first church community. God loves everyone and calls everyone into his family. He calls us to love all those whom he loves. Fortunately, he gives us his Spirit to help when human nature fails
  • Paul prays for them. Do we pray for the church: our own congregation, the wider church, do we do it regularly/frequently? What do we pray: a general ‘we pray for our congregation/ the church’, or do we pray for individuals, for groups within the church or who use the church? Do we pray for some kind of general blessing, or are we specific in requests we make to God? Do we pray for the future of the church, with numbers falling and challenges over finance and human resources; for the Presbytery Mission Plan; for the future of talks on union in Dumbarton; for how we engage with the 90+% of folk in the town who don’t relate to the church in any way?
  • Paul speaks about working in partnership with the church in Philippi. How much do we feel part of a ‘partnership’ – in our own congregation, in the wider church? If we don’t feel that we are engaged in partnership, how are we going to address it? Does it mean that we have to put in more effort to be engaged, or do we need to challenge the ‘gate-keepers’ to let us be more involved?
  • We hear Paul’s prayer for them ‘that love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight’ that they ‘may be able to discern what is best’, and ‘be filled with the fruit of righteousness’. Are we striving to have our love abounding, or is it something that doesn’t interest us much? What are we doing about gaining knowledge and depth of insight? Are we reading, listening or watching to learn more about our faith and its implications for everyday living and the way God wants the world to be? Are we ready to engage in discussion with others, to see what we learn from that? What is it that we want to know or to talk about?
  • In his letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul spoke about the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ as being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Are they things that we see in ourselves? Are they things that other people see in us? Do we want these hallmarks of being followers of Jesus? Are we ready to let the Spirit work in us and develop these ‘fruits’?

For many in our country and culture, Christmas is about fun, food, friends and family, a burst of indulgence in the depth of winter, but something that fades fairly quickly afterwards. As for Advent, it is that hectic time leading up to Christmas. For church folk (despite what our Presbyterian forebears may have said) there is nothing at all wrong in sharing in the mid-winter festivities. But for us there is something more, something lasting, from Advent and Christmas. God calls us to reflect, to prepare, not just for celebrating what happened 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, but what he wants us to do in Dumbarton and beyond in 2021 and 2022 as part of the work of building his Kingdom

Hymn 286 Tell out my soul

Prayers for others and Lord’s Prayer

Heavenly Father

You have called us to be your people

 to have a special relationship with you through Jesus –

 we may call you father

 we are family and friends to each other

but you also want us

 to be an example to the world of what it is like

   living by your values and standards

 to work to build your Kingdom

   sharing the Good News of Jesus and striving for peace and justice

It is hard to be the kind of community you want us to be

 sometimes having to work alongside people that we can find difficult

 sometimes frustrated because things aren’t being done

   the way we think they should be

 sometimes dispirited because no one seems interested in the Good News

   or peace, or justice, or concern for the poor and vulnerable

Fill us anew with your Spirit

 enable us to serve you faithfully

 to cope when it is hard

 to show the fruit of your Spirit in all that we do

We pray for all who are ill,

 those who look after them

 and those who worry about them

those waiting for or receiving treatment

 and those for whom there is no treatment

those who are lonely, feeling down, or grieving a friend or loved one

those who are worried about home, work or money

 a friend or a relative

those who are living with the after-effects of natural disasters

those who do not have enough to eat, or somewhere to call home

those who long to live in peace and safety

those who have fled from their homes seeking safety

We pray for the Queen, the Government

 all in positions of leadership in this and every land

We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us

And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us

Hymn 477 Lo! He comes

Blessing

Look forward in hope

to the coming of your Saviour

prepare the way for Christ your Lord

welcome him with love and faith

when he comes in glory

and the blessing of God Almighty

 Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

 rest and remain with you,

 today, and every day, and for ever. Amen

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